Jesse Marsch: “I think our group understands that when we play a lesser opponent, There is still a lot to be gained from it.” (Derik Hamilton/USA Today)

By Michael Lewis


The Red Bulls managed to get out of New Jersey Wednesday before Thursday’s snowstorm hit the area.

Still, Mother Nature played havoc with their preseason plans.

Their Friday friendly at Sacramento Republic FC was canceled due to rain and flooding in northern California.

So, the Red Bulls won’t be able to play the United Soccer League side. Instead, they will continue preparation for the Feb. 22 CONCACAF Champions League game against a Premier Development League team, FC Tucson.

New York is scheduled to play Tucson at Naranja Park in Oro Valley, Ariz. Saturday night.

“Sacramento wound up being a difficult situation because its rained there a lot,” Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said after training in Tucson, Ariz. Thursday. “It’s been flooded and we had to cancel on that, which is not ideal for either club.

“It was a chance for them to show how much energy they have in that city behind an MLS bid. And for us it was a chance for us to get a real game in front of a real crowd, get that kind of feel before our first Champions League game.”

Sacramento is vying for a Major League Soccer expansion franchise.

“We like it here,” Marsch said. “It has been a good place to train.

“We’ll get a game against FC Tucson, which is not as big a challenge as Sacramento, but we’ll make sure we use it the right way. and then we’ll get ready for NYC [FC] on Tuesday and then make sure come the 22nd we’re ready to go.”

The Red Bulls play the Blues in Tucson Feb. 15 before meeting the Vancouver Whitecaps in the first leg of the CCL at Red Bull Arena Feb. 22. The second leg is set for Vancouver March 2.

Saturday’s game plan was simple and to the point. Marsch is more concerned about players getting the proper amount of playing time more than anything else.

“I think our group understands that when we play a lesser opponent, There is still a lot to be gained from it,” he said. “We create certain rules within the game to make sure we’re on top of all the details.

“And when you play these games they’re still really excited about the opportunity. We know FC Tucson will give us everything they have. We’re going to use it fitness-wise, but soccer wise and tactically to get everything out of it.”

Tucson will be using a new coach.

On Tuesday, Jon Pearlman was named the new boss. He succeeded Rick Schantz, who recently became assistant coach for Phoenix Rising (USL).

“Jon and I have worked hand in hand since the beginning,” Schantz said. “He knows the players, the organization, and the team better than any other candidate would have. He’s been coaching for over 20 years in this community, and knows the game at an extremely high level. I expect that Tucson will have continued success under his leadership.”

Front Row Soccer editor Michael Lewis has covered 13 World Cups (eight men, five women), seven Olympics and 25 MLS Cups. He has written about New York City FC, New York Cosmos, the New York Red Bulls and both U.S. national teams for Newsday and has penned a soccer history column for the Lewis, who has been honored by the Press Club of Long Island and National Soccer Coaches Association of America, is the former editor of He has written seven books about the beautiful game and has published ALIVE AND KICKING The incredible but true story of the Rochester Lancers. It is available at